Family holds a sweet sixteenth toy drive for Little Havens in memory of their daughter

A family from Chelmsford has celebrated their daughter’s 16th birthday – her first since she died in 2021 – by collecting more than 400 toys for Little Havens. 

Isabella, known to her family as Bella, was diagnosed with a life-limiting heart condition at nine months old and after many tests was diagnosed with an incurable genetic condition. Little Havens in Thundersley supported the family with regular respite, support and symptom management stays for 15 years. 

In August 2021 Bella and her family spent a week at Little Havens to be cared for at the end of her life. 

Bella’s mum Christine said, “During this time Little Havens not only cared for Bella by making sure she was pain-free, but they also spent so much time playing with Matilda, her younger sister, so that we had time to be with Bella and process what was happening.” 

“Little Havens cared for Bella for fifteen years and in her final days, they made sure that every single day counted. Her days consisted of pampering sessions with her sister, evenings in the grounds watching the sunset together and lots of sensory stories and music therapies. In the darkest of days, they made sure we all had support and somehow helped us all smile, laugh and enjoy our final time.” 

February 20th is Bella’s 16th birthday, her first birthday since she died. After talking to Matilda, 6, Bella’s parents Christine and Tony decided to celebrate this special day by organising a toy drive for Little Havens. 

During Bella’s stays at Little Havens, she and her sister enjoyed many hours of fun thanks to the endless supply of activities and toys. The family felt donating specialist toys to the hospice for other families to enjoy was a fitting tribute for Bella’s sweet sixteenth. While Bella was being cared for in her last days of life her sister Matilda enjoyed countless craft activities with staff and counsellors, giving her a distraction but also a space to talk and explore her feelings. 

So, when Matilda and her parents created their Amazon Wish List, they chose activities they knew other children and siblings would benefit from. A wide range of toys were specially picked for Little Havens such as specialist sensory toys, as well as crafts and books designed to open up conversations with siblings about their poorly brother or sister. The local community, Bella’s extended family and friends all backed the campaign and together they collected over 400 brand new toys for the hospice. 

If you’ve been inspired by Bella’s sweet sixteenth toy drive, could you organise your own fundraising event to help Little Havens continue ‘Making every day count’?
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Bella's familydeliver toys in Little Havens reception